“The problem is variously termed as silo thinking, silo vision, silo mentality, or the silo effect. This is evident when directors, departments, managers, teams or staff may be high performers individually, but fail to choreograph their activities to create peak performance for the organization.”

“One of the key elements of any CRM plan is integration, the unification of all your company's data sources to create a single, holistic view of each customer. While technology is most often used to make this happen, integration is just as dependent on behavior. Silos refer not only to isolated data structures, but also to the sort of thinking that creates and maintains them.”

These two quotes, which I grabbed off the Internet, refer to a problem that I have been increasingly coming in contact with lately in many contexts. In particular, I have experienced it with a professional organization we are all familiar with, a number of vendors that offer so-called “suites of products” and have a number of divisions where the integration is lacking, and firms where cross-selling is very limited and the client relationship management system is underperforming.

All these situations lead me to conclude that there are fewer and fewer “renaissance men and women,” and that there is an increased need to gain a better understanding about what’s in the other “silos” and how that might integrate in the big picture. You would think such silos only exist when an organization gets to a critical size, but I don’t think that is the case. It can also exist in a very small firm or at the sole-practitioner level, where the silo isn’t as easy to see but occurs, when performers “fail to choreograph their activities to create peak performance for the organization.”

Whether we are talking about larger firms or smaller ones, I believe information overload, specialization, and increasing financial complexities are subtly encouraging silo thinking. As the second quote indicates, the solution is integration, which requires a certain type of behavior. The specifics of the behavior will be different depending on the circumstances and size of the firm, but the key will be recognizing silo thinking when it occurs, and understanding the dangers.

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